Case Study: How we coped with an oil leakage challenge, developing a program

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Once, we worked on a very unusual project. It was a real challenge for the whole team. The task was not too easy. However, we dared and did it!

The purpose was to detect ‘holes’ in the oil pipeline timely. However, we did it with the help of our common team’s mind and IT-skills.

A black gold call: What was the task?

Customer: Novopolotsk oil pipeline department

Challenge: To develop software for timely oil leakage detection and prevention.

Druzhba oil pipeline comes from Russia and goes through the territory of Novopolotsk in the northern part of Belarus. Further, it goes through Gomel, Mozyr, Brest (in the south of Belarus), and then forwards to Europe.

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So, our client was Novopolotsk oil pipeline department. The length of the oil tube in this region is about 120 meters, and the diameter is 1 meter. It is too difficult to identify the exact place of leakage or another glitch of the pipeline visually. And also, it takes more time that could influence on ecosystem too badly and even lead to ecological disaster. Therefore, Novopolotsk oil pipeline department needed to find exact leakage location very quickly to take action on time and to prevent pollution.

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Our solution not only for saving ‘black gold’, but also for protecting ecology

The pipeline runs underground, and there is a protective layer of sand above it, allowing visual inspection for timely identifying where an oil leakage is. But this is relevant only for visual observation. For this matter, a helicopter used to explore the territory first. However, we offered a program that allows to detect the location more precisely – with no air expedition, but technically and distantly.

We spent much time, measuring and exploring. Pipeline workers do research of exact locations along the tube, gathering pressure indexes and then writing algorithms that would search a potential oil leak location in the future. Next time this location was successfully found by the program.

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Our further activity was aimed at testing a program, fixing the faults and making it accurate.

Afterwards, the program has been already able to detect an oil leak with accuracy 2-3 km.

This measure is rather exact. Further, it will take significantly less time to observe this small territory and find the reasons.

The reasons causing an oil leak could be following:

  1. Complete destruction of the pipe. It is easier to find without programs. Helicopters would detect the exact place for ten minutes starting liquidation of the consequences.
  2. Intentional gathering of oil, stealing or partly leak. In this case, revealing of the issue without the program takes much time, after hours and even days. It could be indicated only matching income and outcome oil volumes.

Technical nuances that make leakage detection easier and the world better

The area of Novopolotsk oil pipeline department was provided with 8 high-precision pressure sensors that transmit data via the COM-port to the computer. The sensors and the server communicate through the radio relay connection.

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As a result, 8 COM-ports were connected to the computer. The customer needs to get exact information about the petroleum pipeline state.

We wrote a program containing several modules. One of them is a special module for regular data sampling of the pressure level from the sensors. We managed to take pressure indexes approximately 4 times per second with accuracy 1/millions Mpa. The information is stored in the database that also saves a status of sensors connection and any errors of the module.

The second one is a module analyzing pressure charts in order to detect an oil leak. During a leak, the pressure level is going down in the precise location of the tube. This decrease occurs rather promptly, but in rest places of the pipe, the pressure level doesn’t change. Further, the oil leak lasts with the speed of 1 kilometer per hour. We had to implement the module, being able to gather, analyze pressure charts and find the flaw within the section of the pipe. The program detects this fault sector automatically and saves all the information in the database.

The third module presents a dispatch application displaying pressure charts, oil leak messages, sensors status and a list of the latest indexes. The program interface allows customizing the panels according to users’ preferences, for example, scaling vertically and horizontally and doing preferable settings.

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Due to this application, several operators successfully observe the oil pipeline from different computers and, in the case of leaks, the program will inform them timely.

However, the worst problem would be environmental – pollution. So, our program helps to avoid such a global disaster.

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